Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book Review: CAREGIVER by Rick R. Reed

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 205

Dan and Mark have their difficulties. Neither are working and Mark seems not to be sexually interested in Dan. The honeymoon is definitely over for this couple. The problem? Cocaine. They had recently moved from Chicago to South Florida in a failed attempt to pull Mark away from his drug addiction.

While Dan beats the bushes for a job, he also finds plenty of time on his hands, so being a giving person, he volunteers at the Tampa AIDS Alliance to be a buddy to people suffering from AIDS. This story takes place in 1991, before the cocktails that prolonged AIDS-suffer’s lives, so there are plenty of buddies to choose from.

Dan’s HIV buddy, Adam, turns out to be light years beyond all expectations. Adam is flamboyant, witty, wise, giving and charming. He is the type of friend one finds only once or twice in a lifetime. The two quickly bond (non-sexually) and become friends for life. In their short time together, Adam teaches Dan several life lessons, including how to be strong and stand up for himself, something at Adam is a pro at.

Dan also befriends Adam’s lover, Sullivan, who is easy on the eyes but a bit standoffish. Dan is attracted to Sullivan, but is too much the gentleman to go after Adam’s man.

All seems well for Dan until Mark falls off the wagon and plunges the couple into an unknown landscape, while at the same time Adam lands himself in prison. The problems (as often happens in Rick Reed’s novels) seem insurmountable. But while this author leads his characters into hell, he always leaves them a trail of breadcrumbs to follow back. But will they?

Having lived my young adult life in an epicenter of the AIDS epidemic, and having lost my share of friends and loved ones to the disease, it is clear to me that the author draws from personal experience in writing this gripping story. I found that, although this story is set in the height of the AIDS epidemic, it is a story about friendship, love and finding courage. It is a sad, often humorous, and inspirational journey.

This is a story that resonates with me. I enjoyed the characters and their undertaking, and I can recommend it to all who enjoy a dark and complicated tale.

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